Littell was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family, of Russian Jewish origin. He is a 1956 graduate of Alfred University in western New York. He spent four years in the U.S. Navy and served at times as his ship's navigator, antisubmarine warfare officer, communications officer, and deck watch officer.
Littell is an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award-winning novelist Jonathan Littell. His brother, Alan Littell (born 1929), is also an author and journalist.
- The Defection of A. J. Lewinter (1973)
- Sweet Reason (1974)
- The October Circle (1975)
- Mother Russia (1978)
- The Debriefing (1979)
- The Amateur (1981)
- The Sisters (1986)
- The Revolutionist (1988)
- The Once and Future Spy (1990)
- An Agent in Place (1991)
- The Visiting Professor (1994)
- Walking Back the Cat (1997)
- The Company (2002)
- Legends (2005)
- Vicious Circle (2006)
- The Stalin Epigram (2009)
- Young Philby (2012)
- A Nasty Piece of Work (2013)
- The Mayakovsky Tapes (2016)
- Comrade Koba (2019)
- For the Future of Israel (with Shimon Peres) (1998)
Films and Television
- The Defection of A. J. Lewinter. 1973 British Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction.
- Legends. 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category.
- Video Interview with Robert Littell via France 24.
- Littell, Robert. "A legend in his own time." Interview by Ali Karim. January Magazine, n.d. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Corty, Bruno. À la rencontre de l'autre Littell, Le Figaro, 21 March 2009.